fb-pixel Skip to main content

WASHINGTON — J. Dennis Hastert, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, was paying a man to not say publicly that Hastert had sexually abused him decades ago, according to two people briefed on the evidence uncovered in an FBI investigation into the payments.

Federal prosecutors Thursday announced the indictment of Hastert on allegations that he made cash withdrawals designed to hide those payments and for lying to federal authorities about the purpose of the withdrawals.

The man — who was not identified in court papers — told the FBI that he had been touched by Hastert when Hastert was a high school teacher and wrestling coach, the two people said Friday. The people briefed on the inquiry spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a federal investigation.

Advertisement



The FBI declined to comment.

It was not clear when the alleged behavior occurred. But according to court documents, Hastert was a high school teacher and coach in Yorkville, Ill., from 1965 to 1981. The FBI was not able to substantiate the allegations beyond the man’s statements.

Federal authorities unsealed an indictment of Hastert on Thursday, although it skirted the issue of what Hastert had done to the man that led to the payments. The indictment charges Hastert, 73, with one count of evading bank regulations by withdrawing $952,000 in increments of less than $10,000 to sidestep reporting requirements. He also is charged with one count of lying to the FBI about the reason for the unusual withdrawals. Each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A statement from the US attorney’s office announcing the indictment said Hastert will be ordered to appear for arraignment. The date was not immediately set.

The indictment said that in 2010, the man met with Hastert several times, and that at one of those meetings Hastert agreed to pay him $3.5 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” the man.

Advertisement



The indictment stunned Hastert’s friends and former Capitol Hill colleagues, who said Friday morning that they were struggling to make sense of the federal charges against him.

“In my dealings with Denny, he was always straight up, aboveboard, and never even close to crossing the line on anything,” said Tom Davis, who represented Virginia as a Republican House member.

The indictment alleges that Hastert agreed to provide money to a person identified as “Individual A” in order to “compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct.” It said Hastert was structuring the cash withdrawals in increments designed to avoid bank reporting requirements. The indictment does not provide details of the misconduct.

Federal prosecutors said in the indictment that Hastert had made cash withdrawals from banks in a way that was designed to hide his activities. The indictment said that Hastert had made $1.7 million in payments so far.

The indictment also said Hastert, a Republican who served as speaker from 1999 to 2007, had lied to the FBI about the transactions.

Yorkville is about 50 miles southwest of Chicago. The indictment, announced by the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said the recipient of the payments was from Yorkville and had known Hastert.

The allegations against a man who was once one of the most powerful people in Washington had left lobbyists, lawmakers, veteran Capitol Hill staff members, and others to speculate about what Hastert, who for eight years was second in line to the presidency, might have done to the person identified only as “Individual A” in the indictment.

Advertisement



One former colleague of Hastert’s described himself as genuinely mystified by the indictment and said he had spent much of Thursday evening talking with many of the former speaker’s Washington friends, who shared his bewilderment.

Davis, who served in the House for 14 years, said, “I think we are all shocked by this.”

Kim Nerheim, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office, said Friday that Hastert’s case had been assigned to Judge Thomas M. Durkin of US District Court, who will schedule the arraignment for the former speaker, perhaps as early as next week. Durkin, a former prosecutor and white-collar criminal defense lawyer who was nominated to the bench by President Obama in 2012, will accept a plea from Hastert and set the calendar for the case, Nerheim said.

Hastert, who has been a lobbyist since leaving Congress, could not be reached for comment at his office in Washington. Nerheim said Friday that there was no lawyer of record for Hastert.

A statement released Friday by the Yorkville Community Unit School District confirmed that Hastert had worked for the district from 1965 to 1981, but said that officials there first learned of concerns about him when the indictment was released Thursday. “Yorkville Community Unit School District #115 has no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct,” the statement said.

Advertisement